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Netflix actor details the moment he lost his eyesight. Produces plays with audiences entirely in the dark.

Before losing my sight, I spent days skating with friends and going everywhere I could… Then, it happened; I couldn’t see. I found myself sitting on the sidelines, listening to the sound of their skateboards hit the pavement as their laughter echoed through the air.

  • 10 months ago
  • July 22, 2023
6 min read
After losing his sight as a teenager, Facundo Bogarin discovered music and acting. He joined a blind theater where the audience experiences the play entirely in the dark. After losing his sight as a teenager, Facundo Bogarin discovered music and acting. He joined a blind theater where the audience experiences the play entirely in the dark. | Photo courtesy of Facundo Bogarin
INTERVIEW SUBJECT
Facundo Bogarin, 35, is from Buenos Aires, Argentina. He lost his eyesight as a teenager and went on to make music and act in the theater. His parents and younger brother are also blind. Facundo is a director and actor in the blind theater company Teatro Ciego. He studied acting with Raúl Serrano, a well-known acting teacher in Argentina. He starts in the Netflix series División Palermo.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
The Blind Theater, or Teatro Ciego, started in the city of Córdoba in 1991. Ricardo Sued, inspired by the techniques of meditation in the dark in Tibetan temples, performed a play in total darkness. In 2001, Gerardo Bentatti, a former member of that cast, summoned José Menchaca to direct a new play in the dark. This cast was made up mostly of blind actors and members of the reading theater group of the Argentine Library for the Blind. Bentatti, together with Martín Bondone, launched the Argentine Blind Theater Center in 2008. It is the first of its kind in the world. All the shows are presented in absolute darkness.

División Palermo is a comedy series created by Santiago Korovsky and included in the Netflix catalog. It includes characters with different disabilities and has already announced its second season.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — When I heard about the casting for the Netflix series División Palermo, excitement consumed me. As I read the script, I found myself laughing out loud, alone in my house. I had never read a script that gave me feelings like that before. As part of the cast, and as a blind actor, I find it unbelievable I get paid to do this. It humbles me, and it also reminds me of the crucial role artists play in our society.

As he began to lose his eyesight, he grasped onto every experience for the last time

Born to blind parents, our lives seemed quite normal and unexceptional to me. They behaved like any other parent – offering unwavering love and support. They helped me with my schoolwork and dealt with my mischievous nature.

When my younger brother turned 11 years old, his sight began to deteriorate. I knew it could happen to me too, and I tried not to dwell on it. I started wearing glasses and as the lenses got bigger, nothing cleared up my vision. While I felt unsurprised, my heart struggled to accept the situation. I clung to hope, despite knowing my family history. Soon, a sense of terror invaded my mind, worrying about what the future held for me.

As my blindness took hold, life underwent tremendous change. I began to feel like a completely different person. Trying to adapt to a new lifestyle seemed brutal. Before losing my sight, I spent days skating with friends and going everywhere I could – experiencing every moment. Then, it happened; I couldn’t see.

I found myself sitting on the sidelines, listening to the sound of their skateboards hit the pavement as their laughter echoed through the air. Frustration set in and I feared I may never live a full life again.

Finding new passions to stir the spirit, learning to navigate the world

Losing my sight meant no longer drawing my favorite album covers. As a kid, I spent hours drawing until the sun went down. I needed to channel that artistic energy into something. I picked up a guitar and began to strum, relying on myself to learn. The instrument in my hands became a source of incredible joy. I knew not to doubt myself. I would keep pursuing my passions, no matter what.

My mother and father proved to me, day after day, blindness did not have to become a hindrance. They both lost their sight as adolescents. Yet, they grew up, got jobs, and started a family. Their lives became a testament to me – I could do it too.

Music became my motivation to carry on and challenge myself constantly. It helped me through the challenges, and there were many. I had to adapt to everything in my life as a blind person. My parents enrolled me in a school for the blind, where I learned the basic skills to navigate the world. Venturing out onto the streets alone for the first time felt truly terrifying.

My parents handed me a cane and said, “Go ahead, cross the street.” Insecurity flooded me with every step I took. Every sound and sensation felt like a threat – even a fly buzzing near my ear. I toiled to stay calm, focusing on what I learned in school. I made my way down the street slowly, and boarded my bus. Inside and safe, a sense of pride erupted in my heart. In time, it got easier and easier to walk outside alone and eventually it became routine. I developed reference points and techniques which granted me autonomy, freedom, and independence to navigate the world. 

As an actor, his mind gives shape to every sound

Inside the walls of our home, we paid little attention to the television, focusing mainly on music. Then, one night at a friend’s house, we watched Treat Me Well starring Julio Chavez. It became the first time I truly stopped to absorb a narrative like that. Despite only listening to the movie, the performance reached out and touched me. I felt something open up inside of me. When I found out that the Teatro Ciego had a casting for blind actors, I eagerly attended.

Facundo with other cast members of the Netflix series División Palermo in 2023. | Photo courtesy of Facundo Bogarin

I arrived at the casting early, my body consumed by nervous excitement. Waiting for the doors to swing open, the owner of the theater spotted me. As we began to chat, we built an immediate rapport. When I stepped onto the center stage, a rush of adrenaline coursed through my veins and I began my monologue. By genuinely embracing every word, I projected an unbreakable confidence.

When they picked me, it felt surreal. I started acting in the theater while taking acting courses at the same time. As a blind actor, when I engage a scene with another person, my mind gives shape to every sound. This purely imaginative process feels like freedom.

I hear a voice and I see the person as I imagine them – constantly updating these mental pictures as the play or show progresses. Acting gave me a place to grow and to develop myself, and eventually I took it a step further. I began producing.

Creating space to impact society and embracing the beauty of life

When we took our play Odd Man Out to Broadway, we focused first on acclimating to the darkness. One day, we arranged a table in the middle of the darkroom. Upon it, we sat the drinks and food each actor brought for lunch.

We let them enter the space freely and told them to help themselves, but we kept the lights off. The actors entered a sort of game – spilling drinks and toppling food. They became frustrated, but had fun.

The process brought the cast and team together as they grasped the essence of such a unique experience. Having a place in this world of theater and television, I have an opportunity to fill that role of impacting society through art.

Every human being deserves a break from reality once in a while; to connect with what truly speaks to them. As actors, we offer people that escape and that release.

Sometimes, I ponder what my life would have been like if I never lost my sight, and I know one thing. I would not be the person I am today. Losing my sight led me here; I love my job and have met incredible people along the way. I live a wonderful life.

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